A relief mission intended for evacuees from Marawi City, led by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and former Congressman Teddy Casiño was blocked Thursday morning at a military checkpoint in the approach to the provincial capitol of Lanao del Sur.
The relief convoy was spearheaded by the Kalinaw Mindanao National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission, which the lawmakers were part of.
This was according to Casiño, who told InterAksyon in a telephone interview that they were compelled to divert the assistance, consisting of 400 relief packs, to the neighboring Municipality of Saguiaran.
Casiño said they had coordinated with the local government and the military prior to the trip to Marawi City. They had even secured the requisite paperwork from the Office of Civil Defense.
As late as Wednesday night, Casiño was assured that the mission was a go.
But, at 8:45 a.m., they were refused passage by a military officer at the checkpoint, and were told that the military officers met on Wednesday night and decided to decline the relief mission on grounds that the evacuees in Marawi City proper no longer needed it.
Casiño found that hard to believe, given that some members of the delegation had accompanied actress Angel Locsin when she visited the evacuees the previous week.
Casiño said the evacuees themselves were the ones who told her of their other needs.
“In fact, part of the goods that we brought today are from Angel,” he added.
When he coordinated with the local government, he was told that it was “the military who calls the shots” given that the city was under Martial Law. “In fact, the LGU apologized to us.”
He was also puzzled as to why media and private vehicles were allowed to pass through the checkpoint, but they were not.
Casiño added that the military officer did not mention any security concerns that posed a danger for them.
“We cannot accept their (the military’s) explanation that the evacuees no longer need aid, because we know that they do need aid, and that’s precisely why we mounted this mission for them,” he said. “The question now is, what is the military’s right to deny relief aid to evacuees? I mean, under Martial Law are they authorized to do that?”
The LGU, including the head of the local disaster risk reduction and management center, were supposed to brief the lawmakers about the situation in Marawi City, and this, too, would not push through. The team was also prepared to provide psychosocial and medical services to the evacuees.
The humanitarian mission from Kalinaw Mindanao would, instead, stay in nearby Iligan City until Friday, where the documentation team would present their findings and an assessment of further needs.